A Shucking Good Time

Tyne Valley Oyster Festival is all it’s cracked up to be

The eyes of the oyster world will be focused on Tyne Valley again this year for the 53rd edition of the village’s Oyster Festival, which runs from August 2 to 6.

“We are extremely excited for this year’s festival, and it is shaping up to be the best festival yet for the community of Tyne Valley,” said Adam MacLennan, of the festival’s organizing committee. “The organization, volunteers, and community pride is what helps make us so successful.”

Oysters are often thought of as high-brow fare, but the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival provides a solid reminder of the day-to-day role that the humble bivalve plays in almost every Island community.

Established in 1964, the festival has developed such standby events as the Canadian Oyster Shucking Championship, the PEI Oyster Grading Championship, the Miss Oyster Pearl Pageant, the Best Decorated Oyster Box competition, and the Best Dressed Oyster Fisher contest. This year also marks the return of the Rock the Boat MusicFest.

While food festivals elsewhere have spent the last 15 years or so chasing micro-trends pushed by the ascendancy of food television, it’s heartening to realize that PEI’s longest running food celebration continues to keep a consistently authentic spotlight on one of our highest profile exports.

The festival isn’t afraid to innovate, however, with video of last year’s Oyster Shucking Competition streamed on Facebook Live. “From many discussions we decided to launch ShuckTV [this year].” MacLennan said. ShuckTV will livestream the Festival’s shucking events for viewers across Canada. “We also have a few oyster bars in the States that will be tuning in to view.”

Submitted Photo

The star of the show remains the oyster, showcased in the festival’s famous oyster and scallop supper, not to mention that all of the oysters opened during the Canadian Oyster Shucking Championships end up on the plates of diners who will enjoy a fried oyster supper, served out of the Tyne Valley Fire Hall.

Participants in this year’s competition are up against some world-record breaking stats. A 10-person Canadian team reclaimed oyster-shucking supremacy in 2014, opening a record 8,840 oysters in one hour flat, as adjudicated by the Guinness Book of World Records. The winner of the speed competition last year was Montreal’s Daniel Notkin, who managed to shuck 18 oysters in 1 minute and 31 seconds, adjusted to 1 minute and 48 seconds for technical deductions.

“The oyster industry is vital to the Prince Edward Island economy,” says MacLennan. “From the public fisherman to the growers, processors or dealers, the industry as a whole provides major economic spinoffs to our province. You ask anyone, PEI has the best oysters in the world.”

And for the first week of August, the world is invited to come to Tyne Valley and discover how central the oyster is to life on the Island. Terry Dawes

About Terry Dawes

Terry Dawes is a Montreal-based writer, having graduated with Fine Arts degrees from both Concordia University and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. He grew up on Prince Edward Island.

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